Focus Fun September Week 1

Warm-Ups!   A MUST for a GREAT RUN!

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The monthly challenge this month are WARM-UPS.   Just like any athlete, your dog needs both a physical and mental WARM-UP before training or showing. There are many ways to warm-up your dog, and each dog will need his or her own personalized way to prepare to go into the ring.

Warm-up routines should address both a dog’s body and mind. When I get ready to train or show, my warm-up begins when I take my dog from his crate.

If showing in Obedience or Rally, I will include any skills that I need.  These skills might include heeling with a normal-fast halt, or an about turn with an immediate right turn.  Ways and skills that will warm and tune-up.

If showing in Agility, I might have my dog “backing up” in front of me to warm up his body, or a few thumb touches or bows to help him stretch out.  In addition, we might do a few sit stays with proofing to practice our start-line behavior.

The purpose of my warm-up is to enhance and add to my run, build engagement, and prepare my dog.

What sort of a Warm-Up do you need?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself while developing your routine.

  • Does my dog need to be energized?  If so, what games will be added?  What will “turn my dog on?”  How long does the warm-up need to be?
  • Does my dog need more self-control?  What self-control skills do you want to practice?   Do you need a longer warm-up to burn energy OR will a longer warm-up excite your dog too much?
  • Is there a weakness in a skill my dog needs tuned up before showing?  This can include a difficult sign, retrieve, practice on a stay, a reminder of how to jump in collection or a turning cue.

Here is an example of the “needs” in my warm-ups.

With my two dogs, Sly and Riker.

Sly is my older, seasoned dog.  When we show, I focus on warming up his body.  While heading to the ring, he walks backward in front of me.  I find this is a great way to warm up his rear end, plus it keeps him focused on me.  Once we are ring side, we do some heeling, a few thumb touches, and one or two bows.  All these skills build engagement between us, while warming up and stretching out his body.

Riker, is my middle dog.  He loves to show.  Sometimes, a bit too much.  While planning his warm-up, I need to concentrate on getting Riker into a calm thinking state.  Our warm-up might consist of some heeling and fronts to warm up his body and mind.  Then he will do a settle, as we wait for our turn.  The settle is a trained behavior that I teach to all my dogs.  It enables my dog to learn to relax in an energized environment.

COMMON ERRORS – Handler Make

  • Warming up too much.  Too much can be as bad as too little.  :>0
  • Not having a back up plan in case the ring is delayed.  What will you do if the ring is delayed?  My dogs learn the revv/settle game.  This is a great way to let my dog “chill” BUT still remain in an active state and ready to go when the ring is ready.
  • Using too many advertised rewards while warming up.  Let rewards in a warm up be a surprise and only reward the best responses.  Sometimes less is better.

Your Task for this September Week 1

  • Does your dog need to be energized?
  • Does your dog need more self-control?
  • Is there a weakness in a skill your dog needs tuned up before showing?

Post your list On the Facebook group!

What happens outside the ring, impacts what happens in the ring!

LINE-UP GAMES – Once my dog has learned a Line-Up, it’s MY job to keep them fun!  As a rule, use games at least seventy-five (75) percent of the time when training “Line-Ups”.   This rate of reinforcement will encourage your dog to “stay on his toes,” and “remain focused on you.”  The balance of games you use might change periodically.  How often you use games when training depends on your dog’s attitude, and desire to work or show.

Over time, the attitude your dog develops on Line-Ups, will carry over to the skill that follows.  When teaching a “Line-Up”, have your dog in a stand or sit, at your right or left side.  Use treats and toys to surprise and reward your dog!  Break into a game to motivate and compel your dog to pay close attention and be prepared to move.

LINE-UP GAMES – Once my dog has learned a Line-Up, it’s MY job to keep them fun! 

Below is the last game I use when teaching, or polishing my “Line-Ups” with my dogs.  When teaching and training, randomly release and reward BEFORE your dog actually gets next to you and sits, or release as your are moving to the position you will train.  Mix up what you do to keep training interesting.  NOTE: Games can be done as you are moving to the spot where you will begin a skill, or as your dog is getting into a stationary position to sit/down/stand next to you.

Challenge for September Week 1

Unexpected commands

  • While practicing a “Line-Up”, suddenly ask for a skill your dog is not expecting.
  • The command can be any skill, or trick your dog knows and understands.
  • Example, ask your dog for a line-up and as your dog gets next to you, ask your dog to spin or twirl.
  • OR ask for a drop/down.
  • Use skills or transitions games your dog isn’t expecting.

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Advertising rewards or using lures.  Once your dog knows the skill, it is time to wean off any visible toys/treats.  Resist the temptation to grab a lure if your dog does not respond to a cue.
  • Excessive motion or torquing upper body.  Shoulder wiggling or “sexy” shoulders, is when the person uses a lot of should cueing to get their dog into position.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing when lining up for Agility, it is when lining up for Obedience or Rally.  The “finish” in either sport resembles the line-up motion.  In the long run, extra movement of your shoulders will affect your “finish line”.  This is the line your dog sees on finishes and is covered at length in the “Fab Fronts and Finish” class.





Video Notes:




Video Notes: Karrde and Sly are helping me demonstrate all the different games in this video.  Karrde is just learning to add games to Line-Ups. 

At the start, Karrde and I do a few rewards over my head and dropped down to him.  He loves toys, so this is a great reward for him.  At marker 0.56, I give Karrde a Thumb Touch signal that he does not respond to.  I give a negative marker to him and give him a chance at the skill again. Hahaha.  He gives a lot more effort on the next signal and is rewarded.  At marker 1.13, I switch to line him on my right side, and he looks away.   The consequence is a tap on his head, verbal reward marker when he looks back to me.  Lastly, I ask Karrde to spin or twirl while he is on my side.  Actually, he has never done this combination of skills, but really does a great job.  I slow my signal down to help him understand the cue.  Note I do not put a lure in my hand.  I give Karrde time to understand and preform the skill and then reward him for his effort.

Sly is next in this video.  He is an old pro at these games and line-ups.  We start with the over the head game and then through my legs to line up on my right or left side.  In the last video, Sly and I do a few sit and spits and then a jump to hand.




Questions? Ask DebbyQ

“When I warm up, he’s perfect, prancing, and happy.  We get in the ring and he goes flat.”
“He is happy outside the ring, then goes into the ring and is a completely droopy dog.”
“My dog LOVES the ring and tries to drag me inside when walking past!”   WHAT!  Yes, my dogs do.  :>)

Have you ever heard or said either of these statements?  There are a few factors that can play into this deterioration upon entering or being in the ring.

The number #1 problem is, the ring itself has become unpleasant for the dog.

Regardless of what created the issue, we need to have a plan to make the ring environment a fun and pleasant place for our dogs.  Many years ago, when I saw dogs stressing about the ring, I came up with a way to teach my dogs that the “ring” was a FUN place to be.

When a new dog comes into my life, one of the first things he will learn is that the ring is GREAT!  My ultimate goal with my dog is, if we pass a ring opening, my dog tries to go in.

When training a dog, and before showing, I want to make sure that my dog finds the “ring” a fun and happy environment.  While training, I take my dog into a ring set-up and play.  YES, PLAY!  Over time, the environment becomes so rewarding that my dog cannot wait to go in a ring.  Remember, my ultimate goal with my dog is, if we pass a ring opening, my dog tries to go in.  SEE the DIG tab for approaching opening drills. 

Let’s get to work on making the ring environment a FUN and HAPPY place for your dog.

What you need

  • A dog eager to train.
  • A leash.
  • High value treats and toys.
  • A ring type environment.  Rings gates if you have them, if not, use a tight location that will surround you on all sides.

Challenge for September Week 1

Making a Ring Environment FUN!

NOTE: while training, randomly continue to reward while approaching an “opening”.

  • Have your dog on leash and on your right or left side.
  • Walk into the ring and immediately start to play and engage with your dog.
  • You can play tug or the KrazyKookie Game.
  • Move around the ring/space as you play or getting close to the barriers.
  • Make mental notes of any areas your dog shows concern.  I.e. back to the barriers, side to barriers, etc.
  • Keep your session short.   1-2 minutes until your dog is LOVING the play session.
  • Move toward the opening, engaging all the way.
  • As you exit the ring, quietly talk to your dog keeping him engaged, but NO play or treats.
  • For this week, the fun ONLY happens when in the ring, and not for leaving the ring.
  • Do 3-6 sessions, ending with staying engaged with your dog back to his crate.
  • Continue to add NEW ring environments and setups as your dog begins to love this concept.  This will teach your dog to generalize the LOVE of the ring environment!

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Not utilizing the area.  When training, use the entire ring.  Especially near the gates or barriers.
  • Wanting to add training skills BEFORE enough desire and joy for the ring environment is built.   Make the ring FUN before you start to train or add skills into your training.
  • Asking too much too quickly.  If your dog has a “stress” history in the ring, use high value treats and toys.  Make sure your dog is hungry for treats and attention BEFORE training.  Keep your ring sessions short, 1 minute.  This will help your dog start to build a positive association with the ring.
Doing what you LOVE is the best way to RELAX.

video – Poe


Video Notes:



Video Notes: In this video, Karrde, Riker, Sly, and I are working on making the ring environment a FUN positive place to be.  Ring gates are set up to give each dog the “feel” of a close environment that is similar to a ring.  When teaching this concept, I will use a game/s my dog loves, and the highest value toys and treats.  Open leaving the ring, any interaction is calm, but focus is still required.  No reward other than praise is given once we exit the ring.  Over time, my dogs learn to want to be in the ring where FUN happens.

At the beginning of this video, Karrde is learning that the ring is fun.  While entering the ring, he glimpses away from me, and I tap him for the lapses of focus.  This is not a correction, rather a reminder of what he should be doing, watching me.  Karrde loves the ring and the play that comes with it.  We move around to work each area of the environment.  Once finished, he stays engaged and focused on me as we leave and go to his crate.  In the second part of Karrde’s video, we are working in an agility location.  Karrde is VERY driven for this environment and it will take additional training to get the focus I am looking for him to offer.  At the start of the session, if he offers focus going to the training area, I stop and reward him.  During this session, he offers spins in hopes of getting the reward.  When he loses focus, I use either taps or the U Missed It game.  At the end of the session, I attempt to get him to back out of the area.  This was too much to attempt during this session, but we ended on a good note.  Loads more work to do!

Sly is next in the video.  He has loads of experience doing this drill and LOVES being in the ring.  Sly gives awesome focus going into the ring.  Once inside, we play tug, and then the KrazyKookie game as we move around the area.   Before leaving, I give him extra treats and praise.  Sly remains engaged out of the ring and back to his crate.

At the end of the video, Riker is showing how he loves the ring and the fun associated with it.  He gives great focus while going through the opening and into the ring.  I drop a toy over my head as a reward for his focus.  While playing, we move around the ring to utilize the entire area.  Riker is doing so well, I decide to take him out of the ring and repeat the drill.  This time, Riker backs into the ring.  Again, we break into play once inside the ring.



Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Backing –  Proofing – Once your dog will walk backward and in front of you at a normal pace, start adding a few simple distractions to test your dog’s knowledge of the skill.

Challenge for September Week 1

This week we will add proofing to your backing work.   Add duration or the amount of backing your dog does as he gains confidence.  Always randomly reward the skill.  

While your are backing your dog, add more distractions and “tight? spaces.

For example:

  • Have your dog walk backward in front of you as you walk through a ring gate opening.
  • Walk your dog backward past a person or another dog.
  • Walk your dog backward past chairs, jumps, trash cans, etc.
  • Practice walking between objects.
  • Weaving around people and or dogs.

COMMON ERRORS – Handlers Make

  • Hands held out and away from the handler’s body.  Hold hands close to your body.  This body posture will transfer easier on the finished skill.  The photo to the right is wrong.   :>0
  • Rushing the training or going too many steps when first teaching your dog.  This skill takes a lot of time and patience to train, take your time and build a history of success and reward.
  • Lack of reward and verbal feedback.  Let your dog KNOW when he is doing well!
  • Handler DUCK walking.  LOL.  The handler’s feet apart and walking one step, then the other around the dog.  Many handlers do this to avoid stepping close to their dog.
  • Not building DESIRE before asking for precision.  The more reward and encourage the better!


video – poe


Video Notes:


Video Notes:  Riker is in the first clip and is learning this skill.  I use a lot of praise and reward for all effort he gives.  I prefer to use 2 leashes when I train this skill.  This goes back to my old horse back-riding days.  :>)


NOTE: how I keep my arms close to my body while tightening the leash.  Also, I give Riker verbal information, and spit treats to him as he is moving.

Sly is in the second clip and he LOVES this skill as you can see by his enthusiasm.  Again, I toss or spit treats to Sly while he is moving.

Rip is in the next clip.  He has been doing this skill a long time, and although not as flamboyant as Sly, Rip has fun backing up too.  Even with my experienced dogs, I randomly reward backing up, by either spitting or tossing a treat. 

Finally, there are a few clips of a dog show.  This skill is great for going into, or coming out of the ring.  Be sure if you are in the ring, that you do not want to waste time, or delay the ring.  My end goal while doing this skill, is that I am moving with my dogs at a normal pace.





Questions? Ask DebbyQ

How is your tugging progressing?


Think like prey – Start playing with your dog and a soft fuzzy toy in an environment with little or no distraction. Resist PUSHING the toy at your dog!   Instead, wiggle the tug toy on the floor using a variation of speed that mimics prey; slow, fast, slow.

Praise and encourage – When your dog grabs the toy, make sure to use lots of praise so  your dog know they are doing the right thing.

Get the tension right – Once your dog has hold of the bite area, only use slight tension on the toy.  Try to avoid tugging firmly until they are more confident.

Match your dog’s effort and enthusiasm. – Let your dog win at the tug game.  When in a litter of puppies, it is common for dogs to play with a littermate that is a similar size and strength to them.  It’s no fun losing all the time and, likewise, neither is being able to win without a challenge.  To build confidence, let your dog ‘win’ the game of tug every now and again, especially at the start.

Up the resistance – As your dog gets the hang of tugging, start to pull back on the tug toy more.

Use the correct motion – Use a back and forth or side to side motion, rather than up and down.  This will mean you can tug confidently without worrying about hurting the dogs neck.

NO TUG RULES – Until your dog is gaga about the tugging game.

Post how you are doing and IF you are having TUG issues on the Facebook group.

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

PDF Files useful for this week



Questions? Ask DebbyQ